Sûrah LXV
"And whosever keepeth his duty to Allah, Allah will appoint a way out for him..."


Zahra's hand re-cradles the public phone receiver, naked wrist outstretched / suddenly ensnared by the bite of a handcuff! Ahmed glares—his face so close to hers she feels it, smells the dankness of his breath, detects the bits of cheese that cling to his unkempt beard, perceives his rancor; shadow seething at her vision's outer edge, his hatred suppurates to the point of being palpable, rank.



Ahmed aspirates, snakelike, hissing in her ear, a slimy residue from the epithet glazing her lobe. Appalled by fear, the questions: what, when, how, who fell, then, into the trap, race by unanswered, scarcely asked; there is no time, the shutter blinks, the film is exposed, the fact is recorded: she is shackled to her vitriolic nemesis. Zahra, terrified, blocks out all save what she knows she must do next. React! Resist! Her free hand rakes at the spectral visage—ducking, wincing past her shoulder to avoid the blinding talons; one eviscerates Ahmed's eye, its lid in shreds, his iris bloodied; pain and anger weld his fist into a bludgeon that he wields with sickening force at Zahra's breast—soft tissue flattening from the impact. Instant nausea, loss of breath! Her grab at Ahmed's groin lacks aim; she misses, rips, instead, the pocket from his trousers as she loses strength and balance from the elbow crashing down upon her unprotected neck—a stroke that dizzies, numbs, relaxes, separates body parts from purpose; legs unable to support her, palms refuse to break her fall, her nose and cheekbone barely rescued from collision with the pavement by the metal noose constricting her incarcerated arm; she limply dangles, hangs like a punch-drunk marionette.

Ignored? Un-witnessed?

Ahmed casts a bleary glance around with his one undamaged eye (the other sightlessly grotesque behind its scrap of ravaged lid) and spies no interlopers. Nervous, wounded, monstrously incensed... Who would have thought, once in his custody, Zahra Rahnavard would strike back? The issue presses: what to do with a semi-conscious mahdur addamm, one whose blood he is obliged to shed... not now, not here, not yet: he has not traveled half way around the globe, faced dangers, braved temptations, sacrificed hearth and home to trespass on Great Satan's Sinful Soil merely to slit a traitor's throat, no matter the prospect beckons.

Ahmed hoists the unstrung woman to her feet, spots a nearby bench, walks, drags, half-carries her, plops her down, removes the handcuff, knees her other breast, determinedly backtracks to the payphone, fumbles for coins, inserts them, dials, then summons a Yellow cab to abet his crude abduction.